Hearsay Testimony in Elder Abuse Cases: A Gray Area at Best
A surge in the number of older adults in the population has given rise to an increase in reported elder abuse cases. Because some courts perceive alleged victims who are older adults to have unique needs, special accommodations are being made for them in the courtroom, including the use of hearsay testimony. A hearsay witness is someone who testifies to out-of-court statements made by another person, usually the alleged victim. The hearsay witness may testify in lieu of the declarant's testifying in open court due to unavailability. The use of hearsay witnesses can be troubling given the research that exists on the questionable reliability of the declarant and the hearsay witness, the lack of accuracy, and the unnecessary bias that can occur when evaluating the credibility of the witness. This commentary elaborates on the reasons why the use of hearsay, especially as a special protection for older adults, should be limited.